SMF response to German court ruling that ritual circumcision is an assault.

27 Jun 2012

PRESS RELEASE: For immediate release 27th June 2012: no embargo

The Secular Medical Forum (SMF) applauds the decision taken this week in the German courts that ‘a child’s right to physical integrity trumps religious and parental rights’ following a circumcision operation on a young boy for no medical reason that led to medical complications. That religious pressure groups have challenged the ruling despite the known medical complications demonstrates unwillingness by members of those religious groups to place the safety of children above religious interests.

Where the child is not endangered, members of the SMF are not opposed to parents raising their children in accordance with their own values and beliefs. However, all children deserve to be safeguarded from non-accidental injury whatever the beliefs of their parents. Children must not be restricted from making their own choices when they are old enough to do so. Irreversible, non-therapeutic surgery, particularly on their most intimate body parts, denies people a choice and often causes significant harm. The SMF rejects any exception to the existing principle that a child’s body belongs to the child and later the adult, and that parents have responsibilities to protect the children in their care from all forms of serious avoidable harm.

A significant number of children suffer severe, life-threatening complications from a circumcision; an operation that has no medical, scientific or ethical basis. All children deserve to be safeguarded; society must not abandon them to ancient cultural rituals. It is likely that many parents requesting ritual circumcisions would reconsider their request if they were given the full facts as to the extent of immediate and long-term harms this operation can cause.

The SMF is disappointed that two motions on the agenda of the annual representatives’ body meeting of the BMA this week calling for all children to be protected from this harm have not been debated. We call on the Government and the BMA to issue clear guidance that the unnecessary cutting of a child’s genitals is a practice no longer to be tolerated in modern society.

For further comment please contact Dr Antony Lempert SMF chair:

The Secular Medical Forum is a non-profit company limited by guarantee working to protect patients from the harm caused by the imposition of other people’s personal religious beliefs. Members of the SMF do not recognise assumed religious authority and challenge religious privilege in terms of decision-making and medical practice.

News links:

BBC: German court rules circumcision is ‘bodily harm’

New Humanist: Clash over religious freedom in Germany as Cologne court ruling outlaws circumcision

The Jerusalem Post: Germany must pass law to protect circumcision

University of Oxford: “Religion” is no excuse for mutilating your baby’s penis


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